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I was watching a TV show and encountered this sentence (if heard correctly):

Dieses Glück scheinen an dem Abend viele zu teilen.

It is not hard to guess the overall meaning, which must be something like "Many people seem to share this happiness this evening."

But I'm having difficulty understanding the structure of this sentence. Since the verb is "scheinen" (plural), the subject should be "viele". Then what is "teilen" doing here? What is its subject and its object?

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You got a good answer, but would still be interested to learn what exactly your problem was. Is, except for the word order, the structure of the English sentence not the same as that of the German sentence? –  Carsten Schultz Oct 9 '13 at 11:41
    
One additional remark: I am not sure about these distinctions in English, but I think that “This evening any people seem to share this happiness.” would be slightly more accurate. What I mean is that the “an dem Abend” refers to “scheinen” not to “teilen”, for the latter one would say “Dieses Glück scheinen viele an dem Abend zu teilen”. However, that is a distinction of the kind that the speaker probably did not even think about. –  Carsten Schultz Oct 9 '13 at 11:46
    
@CarstenSchultz The structure is indeed the same except for the word order. But the verb "teilen" and its object "dieses Glück" are so far apart that I didn't realize at first it is allowed. –  Mika H. Oct 9 '13 at 13:18
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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The verb is scheinen, the subject viele. Here teilen is a verb, but not the principal one. Nevertheless it has an object that stays in accusative: dieses Glück. The structure is easily analyzed if we rearrange:

An dem Abend scheinen viele, dieses Glück zu teilen.

The part after the comma is something that can be seen as an extension of the verb scheinen, which not being a modal verb, doesn't allow to concatenate the verbs as in the the following sentence:

Ich will mit dir dieses Glück teilen. (Modalverbversion)

With modal verbs you can say wollen teilen, möchten teilen, können teilen, usw. To extend scheinen and other verbs one needs an infinitive zu-Satz. Compare

versuchen, pünktlich anzukommen (and not versuchen pünktlich ankommen)


Edit: Originally, the last sentence was brauchen, pünktlich anzukommen, but I changed it due to chirlu's suggestion (based on the present change of brauchen towards modal verb--which I ignored.)

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Given that your (much easier to understand) rearranged sentence has a comma, I'm surprised that the original sentence has a really mixed-up order and has no comma. Is the original sentence considered grammatically correct? –  Mika H. Oct 9 '13 at 5:28
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@Mika H.: Yes, both sentences are fine. Regarding the comma, it is arguably allowed (optionally) by the very general rule § 75 E2 of the Amtliche Regelung, whereas it would have been wrong according to the pre-reform rules. I would still recommend against it due to the strong connection between scheinen and its accompanying infinitive. –  chirlu Oct 9 '13 at 6:36
    
Brauchen is not a good example because it is shifting towards being a modal verb. In particular nicht brauchen is far along on this path. –  chirlu Oct 9 '13 at 6:40
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@Mika H. : this structure might seem messed up but in context of a text it can be considered orderly and logical. IN linguistics there are the terms "thema" and "rhema"... the "thema" is what is known, what has been established in the text already, the "rhema" is what we get as new information. "DIeses Glück" has clearly been mentioned before. It was probably explained in the preceding sentence. So having it in position 1 is a nice connection. "teilen" and "viele" are news for us... new or more interesting information tends to come at the end. So based on text structure this order is normal –  Emanuel Oct 9 '13 at 10:32
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